EBR Native Is New President Of Tangipahoa
East Baton Rouge Parish native Robby Miller made history Nov. 21 by being elected President of Tangipahoa Parish — only the second person ever to hold that ofice. Miller has lived in Tangipahoa since enrolling in SLU in the early 1980’s.
On Saturday, Nov. 21, the voters of Tangipahoa Parish went into new territory, electing a local businessman who had never held public office as the new Parish President, the most important political office of the parish of 125,000.
The winner, Robby Miller, is a native of Central in East Baton Rouge Parish who came to Tangipahoa Parish 33 years ago to play football for Southeastern.
In the election, Miller received 16,467 voters or 52 percent to Carols Notariano’s 15,350, or 48 percent.
The Miller family’s love of Louisiana began in the late 1940’s when Robby’s father, Bobby Miller, came to Baton Rouge from Greenville, MS, as a 7th grader. Bobby attended Istrouma Jr. High and Istrouma High School. As a teenager, Bobby Miller worked as a delivery boy for Sitman’s Drug Store downtown. He dropped out of school in 1954 to join the Marine Corps and went to Korea. While in the Corps, he completed his GED. When he came home on leave, Bobby went to see legendary Istrouma principal Little Fuzzy Brown. When Mr. Brown saw what Bobby had accomplished, he presented him with an official Istrouma diploma, which allowed him to be part of his original Istrouma Class of 1955.
After the Marine Corps, Bobby met a young widow with two children. They married, and he and his wife Joannie have been married 56 years. In 1961, they moved to Green Acres Drive off Foster Road in Central. Robby was born in 1962. He has three sisters — Karen, Karla, and Kris.
Growing up in Central in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Robby Miller loved football and legendary Central coach Sonny Jackson. Coach Jack-
son took a coaching position at Northeast Louisiana State. Robby graduated in the Central High Class of 1980 and after graduation, Robby and four of his friends enrolled at Northeast to play football. The friends were Charlie Hebert, Doug Johns, Rhett Tranchina, and Darrell Crum.
Unfortunately, Northeast went through a lot of coaching changes, and Coach Jackson left for Nicholls State. Robby Miller decided to transfer to SLU and play the last three years of career in Hammond. His last year was 1984. The next year, SLU dropped football, which continued for the next 17 years.
Robby Miller loved Hammond, and he met a young lady named Donna Distefano. They fell in love and got married. They decided to stay in Hammond and had four children:
•Charles Robert III, 25, a University of Virginia graduate in business;
•Tony, 21, a senior at SLU studying athletic training;
•Anna, 20, a sophomore at Springhill College in Mobile where she is studying sociology, and
•Mason, 17, who is a student at St. Thomas Aquinas in Hammond.
Robby started PC Warehouse in Baton Rouge, when he was 27. He commuted back and forth from Hammond every day. After 13 years, the store was a big success, and he sold it at age 40. Today he is a contract chief information officer, and he has done a lot of work for government, business, and professional practices.
In recent years, he has been very active in civic affairs in Tangipahoa Parish. serving on various boards, including the Southeastern Alumni Board. He has spent a great deal of time on economic development, attempting to create an environment in Tangipahoa Parish that would increase economic investment and jobs for local residents.
Robby’s wife Donna is a dental hygienist. She retired a few years ago but soon got in business for herself. She started PJ’s Coffees in Hammond and now owns three stores. It is a franchise out of New Orleans.
Eight years ago, Robby ran for Parish President against the incumbent, Gordon Burgess, who is the only Parish President Tangipahoa Parish has ever had. Mr. Burgess won but over the years they became friends.
This year, when Mr. Burgess did not seek reelection he decided to support Robby Miller for Parish President.
Robby’s opponent was formidable — Carlos Notariano, who served for 12 year on the parish council.
It was a hard fought campaign, and Robby Miller narrowly came out on top.
Robby says growing up in Central helped him fit right in when he moved to Hammond. “Central and Hammond are really so much alike — great people and a real sense of community. You can know everyone and really feel a part of things. It is a very special place,” he said.
Robby said the campaign made him more aware than ever what a diverse parish Tangipahoa is.
The parish is 53 miles from north to south. In that distance, it goes from coastal swamplands to the rolling hills of Mississippi.
“Ponchatoula and Hammond have a lot to afford— the Columbia Theatre, the antique shops, the great restaurants, and live music. And that is such a contrast to our rural areas, which include agriculture and dairy farms, the arena in Amite, and championship rodeo. And of course the Tangipahoa River runs the entire length of the parish, and it’s great for canoeing, kayaking and tubing. Something new that I want to work on is the Manchac Greenway, which will give us the opportunity to use old Highway 51 as a bike trail and path,” he said.
“Tangipahoa is really a great transportation center with the intersection of major Interstate highways and railroad.”
He says economic development will be a key. Using his experience in economic development, he’s hoping for outstanding results for the parish, he said.
Better roads and generally improving transportation are another major goal.
Better recreational facilities are particularly needed on the north end of the parish.
“I’ve always been a team builder. That’s how I know to get things done — always as a team. The citizens are our customers, and we will provide great customer service,” he said.
Robby says he has developed a friendship with John Bel Edwards. “We have done work for his brother at the Sheriff’s office and for John Bel too. He’s a truly genuine person who is easy to talk to and get along with,” he said.
The new Parish President says he certainly doesn’t think it will hurt to have the Governor from your parish. “In many ways, I think our job here in Tangipahoa Parish is a lot easier than what the new Governor faces. We’re inheriting a parish in good financial shape, whereas the Governor will face an immediate $500 million deficit and a projected deficit for next year.
Miller says he is eager to get to work in his new role.
Swearing in for the new Parish President won’t be until July 11. So Miller has time to think a lot about what he plans to do.
Meanwhile, Miller says Gordon Burgess is doing everything possible to make it a smooth transition.